Early this year my husband and I were driving down from Nottingham to London, half way through the journey it started to snow, by the time we came off the motorway it was snowing heavily and settling on the road. As we were only 4 miles from home we decided to continue, but take it slow. However, this turned out to be the wrong decision, after our car skidded on a bend. Luckily we were only travelling at 20mph, but this was still enough for us to end up in a ditch and the car being a total write-off!
My husband, who was driving, was of course shaken up, but being a man he was more upset that he had forgotten the golden rule, always steer into a skid. I tried to reassure him that in a pressured and sudden situation, how many of us would actually steer into a skid? Our natural reaction would be to steer the opposite way, just as he did. We were lucky, our slow speed saved our lives, but we should all be prepared for Mother Nature’s wrath when taking to the roads.
All weather driving – your car
I grew up fixing cars along side my mechanic father and he taught me everything he knew about driving safely in all terrains. The key thing to remember is that your tyres can save your life, make sure they’re in good condition and have at least 3mm of tread, especially when driving in snow.
If you’re driving slowly in the snow make sure you’re in the lowest gear possible and avoid coasting, this will reduce the chances of skidding. Getting your driving speed correct, could save you a hefty garage bill and more importantly save your life.
Don’t drive too fast as you’ll risk losing control, but if you drive too slow you could risk losing momentum when you need it; make sure you brake, steer and accelerate as smoothly as possible.
Start gently from stationary, avoiding high revs. If you get yourself into a skid the main thing to remember is to take your foot off the pedals and steer into the skid. When approaching a downhill slope, make sure you’re in a low gear before you start the descent and only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.
Of course ideally if the weather looks shocking outside avoid travelling where possible, the last thing you want to do is spend the night stuck in the snow in your car. However, if you do find yourself stranded or forced to stop in the snow there are a few things that you need to be aware of.
All weather driving – be prepared
Be prepared, make sure that your mobile phone battery is fully charged, that you have plenty of fuel, you’re wearing warm clothes and have a blanket in the boot, also do not forget to take a bottle of water with you.
In an ideal situation you’ll be rescued quickly, but if you’re in a difficult to reach location things can get cold very quickly. You can keep warm by running the engine, but it’s vital that the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow. If the engine fumes cannot escape, you could be overwhelmed by carbon monoxide gas! Even if it is safe, do not run the engine for more than 10 or 15 minutes in each hour.
If necessary, you can always hang a piece of brightly coloured cloth on your car to let others know you are there.
All weather driving – rain
But it’s not just the snow that can cause accidents and make driving a nightmare. I’m sure we’ve all been driving down the motorway when the rain has been so heavy that you can barely see 20 meters in front of you. Your wipers are going like the clappers, but it’s not improving your visibility. It can be a really scary situation and high winds combined with heavy rain can make things more hazardous
You need to be even more alert to potential hazards in very wet conditions when visibility is low. Where you can, avoid following closely or overtaking heavy vehicles that are throwing out curtains of spray. When you are driving on the motorway avoid lane changes. Remember that other road users may not spot you in very poor visibility, so always drive on dipped beam, and be prepared to use your fog lights when there is heavy misting.
All weather driving – remember
Remember, it’s never ideal to drive in difficult conditions, so if you don’t need to make the journey let the bad weather pass before setting off. If you’re already on the road and the weather is making you nervous, pull over in a safe place, it’s better to arrive late than not at all.